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article imageMaths whizz splits with Macron over Paris mayor bid

By Joseph Schmid (AFP)     Jan 27, 2020 in Politics

French President Emmanuel Macron's party is set to throw out a star mathematician, officials said Monday, in a bitter fight over Paris's coming mayoral election.

Cedric Villani, an award-winning academic, said he would stand for mayor in the French capital despite Macron's Republic on the Move choosing another candidate.

The fratricidal fight has split centrist voters and jeopardised the party's hopes of ousting Socialist incumbent Anne Hidalgo in an election set for March.

Wresting control of Paris would be a huge prize for Macron as he seeks to consolidate his base ahead of an expected re-election bid in 2022.

After being summoned to a meeting with Macron on Sunday, Villani said he would not back down, choosing instead "to remain faithful to Parisians".

"He has signalled his rupture with the president," the head of Republic on the Move (LREM), Stanislas Guerini, told Radio Classique on Monday.

"His statements are quite clear, so on Wednesday night I will ask my executive committee to confirm that he is no longer a member."

Despite Macron's solid showing in the city during the presidential campaign two and a half years ago, polls show his party lagging far behind in the Paris mayor battle.

An Odoxa-CGI survey released on Sunday showed just 10 percent of respondents likely to vote for Villani, and 16 percent for Benjamin Griveaux -- the official choice of Macron's party chosen during a closed-door nomination.

Hidalgo was on top with 23 percent of likely voters in the first round, fallowed by the right-wing candidate Rachida Dati, a former government minister.

Griveaux said on Monday that "his door will remain open" to Villani, a former Fields Medal recipient -- considered the Nobel prize of mathematics -- who was among a wave of political newcomers swept into parliament after Macron's victory.

But Villani, known for sporting ornate spider brooches on his lapels, made no secret of his anger at being passed over for Griveaux, and has modelled his Paris bid on Macron's own outsider victory in 2017.

"It's like in a love story: every once in a while you disagree on how you see things," Villani's spokesman Baptiste Fournier said Monday of the dispute with Macron.

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